Cumbria Archives Service has been given the opportunity to purchase the Alfred Wainwright Papers, including correspondence, memoirs, original drawings, lithographs, slides and photographs. This would allow the papers to remain in Cumbria and be accessible for research.
Most of the £200,000 required will be sought from Heritage Lottery Funds. The Cumbria Archive Service will need to demonstrate substantial public support for the purchase – so if you think it is a good idea send an email or letter to Peter Eyre (see below).
Alfred Wainwright first visited Cumbria in 1930, aged 23. Before that day he had never seen the sea, and when he walked to the top of Orrest Head he could hardly believe his eyes. The visit changed his life and launched the writing career that would touch the lives of millions, even long after his death in 1991.
Wainwright's meticulously handwritten guides (around 50 in all), published between 1955 and 1966, have sold nearly two million copies worldwide. Wainwright received an MBE for his work, which also included a number of TV programmes. Today the Wainwright Society boasts about 1,000 members worldwide and its website receives 15,000 hits a month.
A lanky redhead who began writing as an aide memoire for himself, Wainwright was not at ease with his fame. Wasdale-based broadcaster Eric Robson walked many fells with him and said (reported in the Cumberland Times):
“Before I met him I thought Oh God, I'm going to have to spend months with this man who likes animals more than people. His reputation was of this curmudgeonly old sod but he really wasn't like that at all. He didn't suffer fools. But he was a very thoughtful man, quite a shy and pensive person. In the early days he became a cult figure. There would be sightings, rumours would circulate and people would turn up at a pass, but he would be somewhere else by then.”
“He was old school, and a perfectionist. He hand-wrote his pictorial guides (which were printed directly from his handwritten and drawn scripts) because he didn't trust some typesetter not to get the spellings wrong. His drawings opened the mountains up. He filleted the mountains, and there have been no guide books the same since. He combined all sorts of talents. He was a good writer and cartographer and the books are much more than just guides. They are works of poetry and philosophy and humour.”
The application for funding needs to be submitted by the end of February. If you think the Wainwright Archive should remain in Cumbria and be generally accessible, then to support this project please write ASAP to:
Peter J Eyre
Assistant County Archivist
Cumbria Record Office
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
More about Wainwright www.wainwright.org.uk
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